The RAH Band, “Clouds Across the Moon” and The Sap Is Rising!

Another month seems to have whizzed by so we are approaching our next possible sighting of a full moon (cloud cover permitting). Since discovering at the end of last year that all full moons have a name given to them by the Native Americans who kept track of the months by the lunar calendar, I have written about the:

Beaver Moon – November
Cold Moon – December
Wolf Moon and Blue Moon – January

There were two full moons in January because the cycle between them is 29 and a half days, so just the way it landed, one at the beginning of the month and one at the end. A slight quirk this time is that there will no full moon at all in February (although there should have been a Snow Moon) but skip to the night of the 1st/2nd of March and we should witness the Worm Moon. I don’t know about where you live, but here in the North of Scotland it has been feeling quite springlike of late with lighter nights, crocuses appearing in the garden and a general feeling that mother nature will soon wake up from her winter slumber. (Ok, so there is also a weather front called the Beast from the East giving us a bit of trouble at the moment but freakish for the time of year.)

As for the Native Americans, this spring full moon was given the moniker Worm Moon because the ground was beginning to soften and earthworm casts reappeared inviting the return of robins. It is also however known as the Sap Moon, as it marks the time when maple sap begins to flow and the annual tapping of maple trees begins. Not many maple trees where I live but yes, it seems the sap is indeed rising!

But this is a music blog and I always include one of the many songs that refer to moons in their titles. Right at the start of this series of what will end up being 13 posts, I picked out all the songs I was likely to use to accompany each full moon, but as is wont to happen such worthy choices can often be replaced along the way with new discoveries. This is to be one of those occasions and most definitely not something I had remotely considered at the outset.

Last Saturday night, before heading to bed, Mr WIAA and myself stumbled upon an old episode of TOTP. Always a bit of nostalgia there and can be a bit of a laugh as we witness some of the acts we had long forgotten about, dressed in what now seems ridiculous looking clothing. The episode we watched was from 1985 and although there were quite a few great songs that have stood the test of time (we loved watching Godley and Creme’s Cry), there were also an awful lot of men dressed in oversized suits, jackets and bizarre trousers. The decade that fashion forgot I think.

In amongst all of these highly colourful acts was one I had totally forgotten about but their song has the word moon in the title and because it’s led to a pesky earworm this week, I’m going to include it in this series. Who said all the picks had to be critically acclaimed anyway and always a place in the world for what might now be construed as a bit of a novelty song. I used to like it when there was a bit of spoken word dialogue in a song and this one has it in bucketloads. Yes, not one many of us will remember, but in March 1985 the RAH Band reached No. 6 in the UK Singles Chart with Clouds Across The Moon. A common feature of songs from that era was the (one-way) “telephone conversation” however in this case it is highly unlikely that the futuristic exchange would be carried out via a bulky handset. But hey, the days of the compact mobile phone had not even remotely begun, and people did on the whole still speak to each other rather than simply text or Snapchat, so probably seemed apt at the time.

Clouds Across the Moon by the RAH band:

What I hadn’t realised until revisiting this song was that the RAH Band was in effect one person, Richard Anthony Hewson, an English producer, arranger, conductor and multi-instrumentalist. After graduating from The Guildhall School of Music in the late ’60s, Richard met Peter Asher whose sister Jane was going out with Paul McCartney. Through that contact he was hired as an orchestral arranger and worked with musicians such as The Beatles, The Bee Gees, James Taylor, Supertramp, Carly Simon, Art Garfunkel, Fleetwood Mac and Chris Rea, so quite a pedigree. Apart from his own RAH Band project, he was a producer in the 1980s for Toyah Willcox (makes sense) and in recent years has written music for television shows and advertising slots.

Hewson founded The RAH Band (which obviously took its name from his initials) in 1977 to release an instrumental called The Crunch. This record I do remember as I was chart-obsessed throughout the ’70s – Funnily enough it also reached No. 6 in the UK Singles Chart. As for Clouds Across the Moon, the vocals were provided by his wife Liz, also known as “Dizzy Lizzy”! In an interview at the time, Richard said that the song took place in the future where there was a 100-year-long war going on with Mars. Telephone calls were very expensive due to the privatisation of British Telecom (bit of politics, love it) thus the premature disconnection of the “valuable deep space communication link”.

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Richard Anthony Hewson’s RAH Band

So, an unusual song to have picked for this series but one that fell into my lap last weekend, so had to run with it. I wonder what the Native Americans who named the full moons that we see in our skies would have thought of it? Lets hope on the 1st March there will indeed be no clouds across the moon!

Until Next time….

Clouds Across the Moon Lyrics
(Song by Richard Anthony Hewson)

Good evening
This is the intergalactic operator
Can I help you?”

“Yes. I’m trying to reach flight commander P.R. Johnson, on Mars, flight 2-4-7”
“Very well, hold on please (beeping) you’re through!”
“Thank you operator!”

Hi darling!
How are you doing?
Hey baby, where’re you sleeping?
Oh I’m sorry, but I’ve been really missing you!

Hi darling!
How’s the weather?
Say baby, is that cold better now?
Oh I’m sorry, is there someone there with you?

Ooooh… since you went away, there’s nothing going right!
I just can’t sleep alone at night…
I’m not ashamed to say I badly need a friend…
or it’s the end.

Now, when I look at the clouds across the moon
Here in the night I just hope and pray that soon
Oh baby, you’ll hurry home to me.

Hi darling!
The kids say they love you
Hey baby, is everything fine with you?
Please forgive me, but I’m trying not to cry…

Ooooh… I’ve had a million different lovers on the phone
But I just stayed right here at home
I don’t think that I can take it anymore this crazy war

Now, when I look at the cloud’s across the moon
Here in the night I just hope and pray that soon
Oh darling, you’ll hurry home to me

“I’m sorry to interrupt your conversation,
but we are experiencing violent storm conditions in the asteriod belt at this time
We may lose this valuable deep space communication link
Please, be as brief as possible
Thank you”

Ooooh… since you went away, there’s nothing going right!
I just can’t sleep alone at night…
I’m not ashamed to say I badly need a friend…
or it’s… it’s…

“Hello?”
“Hello operator?”
” Yes, we’ve lost the connection!
Could you try again please?”
“I’m sorry, but I’m afraid we’ve lost contact with Mars 2-4-7 at this time”

“Ok. Thank you very much…
I’ll… I’ll try again next year…
next year…
next year…
next year…”

Postscript:

I have a friend with an all singing, all dancing camera who has been roped in to provide pictures for this series but as yet we’ve not been able to come up with anything that captures the full moon alongside some our unique Highland scenery. Hopefully in due course. In the meantime here are a few shots he took from outside his house last night – The moon still a waxing gibbous one at this stage (more than half full and always illuminated from the right) but pretty impressive how you can get such detail with the right equipment.

Pictures courtesy of R.J.

Cat Stevens, “Moonshadow” and Freaky Lunar Phenomena

I seem to have become interested in the full moon cycle at a pretty unique time, celestially speaking. Since first noticing that amazing supermoon at the start of November there have already been two more supermoons and this month, because of how the first full moon fell, we are to have another one 29 and a half days later right at the end of the month. Unlike the rest it won’t have a name given to it by the Native Americans because it will be a “blue moon” – Something that doesn’t happen very often. Just to complicate things further it won’t actually look blue but red (called a “blood moon”) as the earth will line up with the sun creating a lunar eclipse. Last but not least, it will again be a supermoon where it comes as close to the earth as is possible making it look 14% bigger and 30% brighter (although perhaps the lunar eclipse will override the brightness somewhat this time). Whatever, definitely something to look out for on Wednesday the 31st January, this Super, Blue, Blood, Moon.

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The Blood Moon

I have already worked out which songs about moons I am planning to use for this series, and of course it was a no-brainer that Rodgers and Hart’s Blue Moon would feature whenever that phenomenon appeared in our skies. Now that I’ve discovered this next full moon is going to be shadowed by the earth however, there are definitely more appropriate picks. The one I’m going to choose is Moonshadow by Cat Stevens.

Moonshadow by Cat Stevens:

Ok, so technically Wednesday night’s phenomenon is a case of the earth shadowing the moon as opposed to the other way round, but a great excuse to feature something by Mr Stevens. Most people know that Cat Stevens changed his name to Yusuf Islam in the late ’70s and gave up music altogether for a while. Fortunately for us he returned to it in 2006 and now simply goes by the stage name Yusuf. This song, Moonshadow, was a hit for him in 1971 when he was at the height of his popularity. Of all his old songs, he considers it his favourite.

I hadn’t realised until recently that Cat/Yusuf was actually from London, and more precisely the West End as his parents were the owners of a restaurant in the theatre district. Possibly because he had a Greek father and Swedish mother, and also because of his global success then conversion to Islam, I have always just thought of him as a citizen of the world and find it hard to conjure up images of the young Steven Demetre Georgiou waiting tables in the Shaftsbury Avenue of the “Swinging Sixties”.

The lyrics of the song were once explained by Yusuf in an interview – He had been on holiday in Spain and when standing at the edge of the water on a beautiful night with the moon glowing, he looked down and saw his shadow. As a kid from the West End of London, what with the bright lights and streetlamps, he had never seen the moon on its own in the dark before. He thought that was so cool and it inspired him to write about finding hope in any situation – To be present and joyful, to see life as it is right now, and not to compare it to others’ lives, or to other times in your life. If we are always wrapped up in whirlpools of worry and concern about what could be, or what has been, we are missing the richness of life as it is.

So, “What’s It All About?” – As someone who is prone to getting caught up in a whirlpool of worry and concern about the future, it seems I need to take heed of these lyrics and try to be much more “present and joyful”. Apologies for my rant last time (that post now heavily edited) as no doubt everything will sort itself out in due course – Just sometimes therapeutic to use our blogs as a place to vent. In the meantime, lets hope there will be no cloud cover on the 31st January so that we can all witness the phenomenon that will be, the Super, Blue, Blood, Moon!

Until next time….

Moonshadow Lyrics
(Song by Cat Stevens)

Oh, I’m bein’ followed by a moonshadow, moonshadow, moonshadow,
Leapin and hoppin’ on a moonshadow, moonshadow, moonshadow.

And if I ever lose my hands, lose my plough, lose my land,
Oh if I ever lose my hands, Oh if I won’t have to work no more.

And if I ever lose my eyes, if my colours all run dry,
Yes if I ever lose my eyes, Oh if I won’t have to cry no more.

Oh, I’m bein’ followed by a moonshadow, moonshadow, moonshadow,
Leapin and hoppin’ on a moonshadow, moonshadow, moonshadow.

And if I ever lose my legs, I won’t moan, and I won’t beg,
Yes if I ever lose my legs, Oh if I won’t have to walk no more.

And if I ever lose my mouth, all my teeth, north and south,
Yes if I ever lose my mouth, Oh if I won’t have to talk…

Did it take long to find me? I asked the faithful light.
Did it take long to find me? And are you gonna stay the night?

Moonshadow, moonshadow, moonshadow, moonshadow.

Fireworks, Full Moons and “Arthur’s Theme (Best That You Can Do)”

Well, socially it’s a busy time of the year in my neck of the woods and there have been two soirées in the last week alone. Last Tuesday our “across-the-road” neighbours hosted a Halloween party which was great fun. We all specialise in different kinds of events (I do quiz nights and landmark dates in the calendar) but Halloween belongs to them. Despite being in their late sixties now, their son’s old baby bath is hauled out to enable “dooking for apples”, the garage is given a spooky makeover and all the local kids drop by in their costumes.

Then on Saturday, friends who live across on what is called the Black Isle (it’s not actually an island but it’s bordered on three sides by firths, so almost), asked if we’d like to join them for their local Bonfire Night celebrations. The best bit of the whole night however was that we witnessed the most spectacular full moon I think I’ve ever seen. The picture below is not of that actual moon, as I wasn’t quite on the ball with my camera equipment, but it could well have been.

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Having looked into it a bit more it was called the Frost Moon which peaked this year on the 4th November. It is also called the Beaver Moon however, that name coming from the Native Americans as this was the time of year they set their beaver traps to make sure there were enough warm furs ahead of winter. It turns out all full moons have a name which is something I hadn’t realised before and they go as follows:

December – Cold Moon
January – Wolf Moon
February – Snow Moon
March – Worm Moon
April – Pink Moon
May – Flower Moon
June – Strawberry Moon
July – Buck Moon
August – Sturgeon Moon
September – Fruit Moon
October – Hunter’s Moon 
November – Beaver Moon

Over the last year I have written about all the landmark dates in the ancient Pagan, or Celtic calendar, but as that cycle is now complete I think I can feel a new series coming on, this time all about moons! But of course Saturday’s moon wasn’t just impressive because it was a full one – Oh no, it was also a “supermoon”, when it comes to that point nearest the Earth. Despite being only about 26,000 miles closer than at other times, it appears around 14% larger and a whopping 30% brighter than usual. I love all this stuff.

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But this is a music blog, so which song came to mind as I wandered along the beach on Saturday night on my way to the bonfire? Perhaps because I have written both about Frank Sinatra and the song Fly Me To The Moon in my last couple of posts, I ended up going down the Rat Pack route, and serenaded our friends with this golden oldie.

In Napoli where love is king
When boy meets girl, here’s what they say:

“When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that’s amore”

That’s Amore is a song written by Harry Warren and Jack Brooks which became a big hit (and signature song) for Dean Martin in 1953. Funnily enough, I remember it best from the Cher film Moonstruck, where she plays a widowed Italian-American who falls in love with her fiancé’s estranged, hot-tempered younger brother (played by Nicolas Cage). Cher won the Oscar for Best Actress in that one and as I haven’t watched it in years, I think I will now go and seek it out.

But what else comes to mind when I think of songs with the word moon in the title or lyrics. Well, this might be a good time to include something by Christopher Cross in the blog. I have held off as long as possible as it seems that Christopher has unfortunately ended up being attributed to that category of artists who produce what is called soft rock, or even worse yacht rock. Apparently yacht rock relates to the stereotype of the yuppie yacht owner, who enjoys smooth music while out for a sail. Also, since sailing was a popular leisure activity in Southern California, many yacht rockers made nautical references in their lyrics, videos, and album artwork, particularly Sailing by Christopher Cross.

But hey, I have never owned a yacht nor am I ever likely to, but I still warm to the melodic tones of Mr Cross and always enjoy that romantic line from his Academy award winning song Arthur’s Theme (Best That You Can Do)If you get caught between the Moon and New York City, the best that you can do is fall in love”.

Arthur’s Theme (Best That You Can Do) by Christopher Cross:

It is no surprise really that I have always liked this song as it was written by Burt Bacharach (amongst others) for the 1981 film Arthur starring our own Dudley Moore. Burt’s song Wives and Lovers featured in my last post so definitely on a Frank and Burt roll at the moment it seems. What I have just discovered however is that the line about getting caught between the moon and New York City was inspired not by a romantic encounter but because one of the credited songwriters, Peter Allen, got stuck in a holding pattern waiting to land at JFK airport in New York several years earlier. Oh well, best not to know sometimes how these memorable lines came to pass.

So, “What’s It All About?” – I seem to have a new series on my hands! (Yes, I know I have a few others in progress but I will make time for them too, promise.) There are certainly many, many songs that mention the word “moon” in the title but which are your favourites?

In December, all being well we will witness the Cold Moon, that name again from the Native Americans as it was associated with the month when winter cold fastens its grip and the nights become long and dark. Any suggestions for songs therefore that relate to both the moon, and to the cold grip of winter, gratefully received. I will get my thinking cap on myself before that date and apologies that I couldn’t muster up anything this time that related both to the moon, and to beavers – Might have been a stretch?!

Until next time….

Arthur’s Theme (Best That You Can Do) Lyrics
(Song by Burt Bacharach/Carole Bayer Sager/Christopher Cross/Peter Allen)

Once in your life you find her
Someone that turns your heart around
And next thing you know you’re closing down the town
Wake up and it’s still with you
Even though you left her way across town
Wondering to yourself, “Hey, what’ve I found?”

When you get caught between the Moon and New York City
I know it’s crazy, but it’s true
If you get caught between the Moon and New York City
The best that you can do,
The best that you can do is fall in love

Arthur he does as he pleases
All of his life, he’s mastered choice
Deep in his heart, he’s just, he’s just a boy
Living his life one day at a time
And showing himself a really good time
Laughing about the way they want him to be

When you get caught between the Moon and New York City
I know it’s crazy, but it’s true
If you get caught between the Moon and New York City
The best that you can do,
The best that you can do is fall in love

Postscript:

Out of interest here are a few pictures from the display we went along to on Saturday night – The fireworks were indeed spectacular but not quite as spectacular as that amazing full moon reflected on the water of the firth. Very special indeed.

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